Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Brutal and Beautiful Murder Scene

*SPOILER ALEART for those who has not seen Gangster No.1”
As a child I never really enjoyed watching Disney and would much prefer watching; Schwarzenegger have a hand to hand combat with a Predator, see the killing spree maniac John Ryder throw himself at a moving car and be thrown back out in The Hitcher or be on the edge of my bed watching Ripley fight her way through endless about of Aliens. So my film collection as a child did start off quite odd and “bring your favourite film to school day” did get me in trouble when I showed up with Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs but hey I learnt more from films then I ever did in school.

"Ganster smoking a cigarette and cursing at the victims lifeless body"
One day my uncle came over and had a film in his hand but I wasn’t allowed to watch it and was sent to bed. He left the next day but without the film. Being alone and nothing to do I thought I should watch this film which was Gangster No.1. I’ve already seen Goodfellas, The Godfather Trilogy, Casino and Scarface but these films never somewhat made a bigger impact on me then Gangster No.1 did, mostly because of the beautiful brutal murder scene of Lenny Taylor. I’ve never seen in any film someone in his underwear with the Hi - Fi turned up so no one hears the screams torture someone in such a state with; ice pick, axes, machete even house hold items like wine bottles and fruit bowls. I was just blown away with this psychotic gangster kicking and shouting verbal abuse and finally killing Lenny ramming his face through a pane glass drink cabinet. I had to pause the film and take in what I just saw. The entire scene was shot in a point of view shot so all you see is what Lenny saw through his own eyes as images and sound slowly fades away and Lenny dies.  You then see the a befuddled blood stained underwear smoking cigarette gangster sitting down still cursing at the victims lifeless body.

Some people my say I was traumatized from what I saw but I think that on that day and that very scene I knew I wanted to work in cinema. I’m not going go round stabbing and shooting people saying its beautiful murder rather actually I would want to create my own scene which I am personally writing right now. Even today I cannot believe how beautifully orchestrated that scene was and that being a murder scene somewhat juxtaposition what I’m saying being brutal and beautiful. The build up to the murder in captivated me with him just saying one words answer “I’m superman, KING FUCKING KONG, I’m filling up, FILLING UP”. You can the see psychotic madness in his eyes just in that 5second in the lift and that he’s getting closer and closer to Lenny. The massive yet elegant build up that we are shown, you would assume as soon as the Gangster is in the room he would start hacking away but instead takes his time. As if the Gangster is an artist looking at a plain canvas who is wounded Lenny and decides what he’s going to do? And in the end result you get a masterpiece.
(Here is a video clip of the scene from YouTube)

Monday, 17 October 2011

Documentary to Animated Documentary

In our lives we all watched documentaries; some of us love them and other cannot stand them, some find David Attenborough’s voice to be absorbing when others just want to pass out of boredom. In the end we have all seen a documentary, but what is a Documentary? You can say a documentary is a film trying to attempt to document a present or pass reality. The scenes we see are not scripted and the chosen footage will speak for itself or at times rely on a voice-over narration to help the viewer understand. Mostly all documentaries have no actors and interviews are taken by real people.

My personal two favourite documentaries both released in 2008 and one of them some may consider not a documentary at all; Ari Folman’s “Waltz with Bashir” and Werner Herzog “Encounter at the End of the World” are two documentaries that has changed my view in both film and documentary.  Encounter of the End of the World is based on Werner Herzog exploring the Antarctica but not because of global warming or discovering an accent artefact. The documentary focuses on the people who live and work there, capturing striking footage of locations and unreal stories of the people who choose to live “at the End of the World”. Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir is somewhat half animated film and half documentary which is quite odd in a documentary genre. The animated documentary film is based on the 19 year old Ari Folman’s memory on the aftermath of the Sabra and Shatila massacre in the 1982 Lebanon War. Personally Waltz with Bashir has a film like linear narrative structure following Ari attempting to regain his lost memory of the war at the same time teaching us what the 1982 Lebanon War was about.
Lighting Beirut
Both documentaries have remarkable ways of fascinating you. What I liked about Waltz with Bashir is how Ari used his personally experience as a linear structure of the documentary of discovering his traumatised state. As he un-covers more of the massacre by talking to soldiers that was there. When talking to his friend, in a film senses it is a bar scene but in a documentary senses it is an interview, so we as the audience hear the story. Just like a WW2 documentary when interviewing an ex SS Nazi or a US marine we as the audience hear their story. With striking footage, Werner narrates the documentary in a mesmerizing way and entrancing you by not showing you but by bringing you along for the ride. A scene when Werner goes diving with two scientists under the icecaps “I noticed that the divers in their routine were not speaking at all. To me, they were like priests preparing for mass. Those few who have experienced the world under the frozen sky often speaks of it as going down to the cathedral”. I could not but help venerate how Werner illustrated the documentary and that he was not reading a script but reading poetry “Our presence on this planet does not seem to be sustainable. Our technical civilization makes us particularly vulnerable. Human life is part of an endless chain of catastrophes, the demise of the dinosaurs being just one of these events. We seem to be the next.” 

Under the End of the World
I just appreciate how both directors use simple ideas and break through the simply conventional idea of how a documentary should be. With Werner using beautiful opera and his mesmeric voice to hypnotise you I just can’t wait for more of his documentaries and with Ari taking a structure of what is a film but made it into an animated documentary film and taking 4 years in the making of Waltz with Bashir it’s a shame that this film is banned in Lebanon.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

The Great Films with the Greatest Soundtrack

I've watch thousands and thousands of films in my twenty one years on this earth and actually being able to list my five all-time greatest films at this early stage of my life as a film student too, some may say “It’s more or less impossible to list favourite because it keeps on changing”.  For me to say; Vanilla Sky, The Fountain, Gattaca, Assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford and Drive are my top five films of all times, people may question my judgement on films with Vanilla Sky being number 1 and has been for the past 10 years. But that is for another blog to describe how Vanilla Sky changed my life both in cinema and life. Personally to make the perfect film all the elements must be ticked off; cinematography, narrative, character depth, plot and personally most importantly soundtrack. I want to leave the cinema speechless, I want to be not able to describe why I love it and I want the feeling of “je ne sais quoi”.

With great films comes by great directors with; cinematography, narrative and so on. The director’s job is to take the script and artistically and beautifully put in on the screen and show it to the world. But to create music for the film how can the composer visually see it music? And with that it is more or less impossible but yet composers like; Clint Mansell, Michael Nyman, John Williams, Warren Ellis and even Nick Cave are to me the untold and unsung heroes for cinema. Yes “Requiem for a Dream” is one of the most noticeable films both cinematography and soundtrack. I would hear people say “That film is F**king amazing and the soundtrack is beautiful” and phrase Darren Aronofsky and wouldn’t even know Clint Mansell. I’m not discrediting Darren at all but personally the soundtrack is one of the major reasons why “Requiem for a Dream” so dam powerful and successful. If it wasn’t for Clint Mansell creating “Lux Aeterna” with the beautiful and yet daring violin orchestra I couldn’t imagine those last scenes of Requiem for a Dream being that gut clenching and giving you goose-bumps.

In the last scenes of Andrew Dominik “Assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford” when Jesse knowing of his assassination he walks and stands on the chair with Robert Ford standing behind his hero waiting to shoot him from behind. You can see how he feels and you can feel what he feels with Warren Ellis and Nick Cave creating the song for the soundtrack “What Must Be Done”. I could imagine unwilling killing my hero and this song coming on and that’s what Ellis and Cave wanted. The title of the song is the scene “Do what must be done”, Robert killing his childhood hero to save himself and be credited as a hero and when he does kill Jesse it all fails and his is discredited and hated by many, “Song for Bob” is truly is a song for Robert., living with the guilt and shame of not wanting to kill his hero. With song perfectly ending with the narrator ending the film “The shotgun would ignite, and Ella Mae would scream, but Robert Ford would only lay on the floor and look at the ceiling, the light going out of his eyes before he could find the right words.”

The favourite films that I have listed I have all the soundtracks on my iPod and at times I would listen to them and somewhat imagine myself in the film and in my favourite scenes. I would imagine I’m Tom Cruise running through the empty streets of Times Square, kissing Rachel Weisz for the last time, being Ethan Hawke on board a shuttle ship leaving earth and shooting my hero. That is what a great film with the greater soundtrack is; thinking about the film, feeling the film, hearing it and wanting to go back to the film without even watching it.

Re-read this article and listen on youtube to Clint Mansell - Requiem for a dream Lux Aeterna,  Michael Nyman - The Departure or Warren Ellis and Nick Cave - Song For Bob at the same time and you can see that just this paragraph can be magnitude a thousand times more.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The Creator of the Wise Guy

How Quentin Tarantino is notorious for his use of; dialog, gore and magnificent cinematography with films like; “Reservoir Dogs” or “Pulp Fiction”.  I find that his use of character depth is never quite what I want. Christopher Nolan is known for his ambiguous storylines and themes with “Memento” or the neo noir “The Following”. At times it can be indistinguishable but you can never tell its Nolan’s elegance or theme. Martin Scorsese has the same stylishness with dialog and theme most notably for his gangster films. Even in different centuries; “Gangs of New York”, “Casino” and “The Departed” with Scorsese’s; dialog, theme even cinematography you see his idiosyncrasy in his film “The Scorsese Theme”.

With “Gangs of New York”, “Casino” and “The Departed” how could Scorsese make these films identical? It’s the use of dialog with; the accent and the date of the film is set in Scorsese has his characters speak in the native tongue and swagger of the time frame of the film. “Goodfellas” and “Casino” Scorsese emphasises the use of Italian American language with Italian culture “Forget about it” and in “The Departed” and “Gangs of New York” Irish American with their heritage. Scorsese also makes his protagonist narrate as the film progresses.  Even today you see Scorsese’s influences in other gangster style films or TV programs like “The Sopranos” or “Boardwalk Empire”. With characters like “The wise guy” or having gangster themed names like “Fat Tony”
Scorsese’s continuously always has his characters explore the extreme mental sates of the human mind. With this Scorsese chooses what unstable mind set should his protagonist be and what kind of outcast should they be portrayed; ‘Taxi Driver’s’ Travis Bickle a psychotic Vietnam veteran insomniac, “Shutter Island’s” Teddy Daniels a world war 2 veteran who now a widowed police marshal detective or “The Aviator” Howard Hughes the multi-millionaire tycoon and an insane paranoid OCD film director. Scorsese even plays with other anti-protagonist mind set and gives them a mental gap. “Gangs of New York” Bill the Butcher and “The Departed” Frank Costello. Similar villains but in different films you can tell that Scorsese created these villains with acts of brutal murder. Scorsese also has his dark humour.  In Goodfellas and Casino Scorsese created Tommy DeVito and Nicky Santoro both portrayed by Joe Pesci. It was with these two characters that both Scorsese and Pesci created the “The tough guy, the wise guy”. Tommy DeVito known as a “Sick maniac” and Nicky Santoro “no matter how big a guy might be, Nicky will take them on” are characters both seen as the out of control racist tough guy that just shoots or beats up anyone. With Pesci, Scorsese created this ideal tough guy who might be short but you don’t cross the line. Like the pen stabbing scene in Casino “You beat Nicky with fist he comes back with a bat you beat him with a knife he comes back with a gun”.

I feel that with Martin Scorsese he helps introduce and emphasize to the viewer what the true Italian American Mobster is. With slick back hair, long collars and a name like Jimmy big mouth or Big Tony Scorsese created a theme for the future Italian Mobster films. Though in 1972 Francis Ford Coppoia brought us The Godfather I feel that Francis aimed his Italian Mobster theme on family values and the family business. Some say The Godfather and Casino are the same but with two different directors. This statement to me is only half true and that Godfather’s aim is to show not the violence but the “Corleone Business” wanting to turn legit but can’t escape the violence “Just as when I’m out, they pull me back in.” and in Casino it shows two mobster families in the 70’s and 80’s in the glittery wonderland of Las Vegas but with a brutal wasteland just outside. With Scorsese you get more the humour and less up tight life of the Mobster, I couldn’t imagine the “Funny How?” scene in Goodfellas be shown in any of the Godfather trilogy. So that’s what makes Martin Scorsese personally such a great film director. He not only created for us the true Italian Mobster but he focuses every detail on character depth and dialog in all his films. He created a mise en scene and etherized on the Mobster genre. And personally I feel that David Chase the creator of The Sopranos mixed both Martin Scorsese’s works with Francis Ford Coppoia to have both family values and family business with the mise en scene that Scorsese created I’m sure that future directors if they create their own mobster hit  they would look for Martin Scorsese’s films.

Monday, 26 September 2011

The Assassination of Make-Up by the Coward CGI

So with the re-making of John Carpenter’s 1982 “The Thing” almost with us, it’s no wonder that anyone is on the edge of their seats for the Matthijs van Heijningen Jr remake. Watching the trailer I can already see they have destroyed yet another classic childhood film. With ridiculous amount of CGI used and giving the production way too much money to a director that hasn’t done a film with this much budget, it seems like Matthijs has bitten more then he can chew.

This blog however isn’t about me ranting about a under qualified director because we all know he is. This blog is about how the concept of too much CGI actually belittles the idea of realism within the film and how it has no place in horror. In the 1982 version of “The Thing” barely any CGI was used, infect the only scene that is CGI is when the alien spacecraft crashes into Earth. The rest of the film is just; beautifully handcrafted alien prop, amazing pulley systems, stunning make up and even using amputees as in initiative for loosing limbs. The whole idea of CGI was to make it look so realistic that the audiences couldn’t even tell if it was prop or a computer generated imagery.  Now that it’s so heavily edited that it draws away from realism and that it takes away the imagination which takes away the fear.  Steven Spielberg didn’t show Jaws throughout the film not because he wanted to build suspense but because the shark robot never actually worked and could only show glimpse of the shark and let the audience use their imagination. Danny Boyle’s “28 Days Later” infected was a simply design of red contact lenses, a lot of blood and mad running speed.  Francis Lawrence originally wanted to make his infected vampire beings in “I am Legend” similar to Danny Boyle’s infected and can actually be seen in when one of the infected vampires attacks Will Smiths family jeep when driving them to the evacuation point. However half way through filming Francis changed his mind and decided to make his infected CGI which made the production more expensive and made the infected look ridiculous.  This decision of converting from a simple makeup to an overly priced and long developing CGI actually did cost him the film. This goes again with the 1984 remake of “Nightmare on Elm Street” when Freddy was heavily CGI. In the original Freddy did actually look like a burnt victim, but with the 2010 remake you can tell the actor was just wearing a green mask and left to the editors to do the CGI.

Of course CGI is not all gloom and doom. I feel that CGI’s soul place should be in natural disaster movies rather than horror and gore films; the huge tsunami wave in 2012, the hurricane twisters in The Day After Tomorrow and the world destroyer asteroids in Armageddon. These are great films with amazing CGI, helping the audience capture their imagination with the power of natural disaster. 

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

“Why Do I Do, What I Do?”

“Why Do I Do, What I Do?” Cannot really be summed up by one word but through a series of films that I can personally say represent me. When I watch a film I want to be taken into that world and lose touch with reality and when the credits show and I want to be left with more.  A film shouldn’t just entertain you with the new found technology called 3D with its special effects over shadowing its awful story, which is quite funny when 3D was meant to make feel like you are in the movie when in reality it just hurts yours eyes and actually reminds you you’re in the cinema and you’re watching the film.

Is this what Hollywood is doing now? Rather than producing films that actually has some art and feeling. They prefer to just to dumb the audience down with ridiculous amount of CGI with Michael Bay exploding everything in his path. James Cameron’s Avatar marked a very low moment in cinema for me when both critics and audience reaction of the film was both amazing and unique. Yes visually the film was great and why it got the awards for Best Cinematography at the 2010 academy awards. But the film was never the less anything more than; original, slow and cliché. Yet just because the film had James Cameron’s Avatar it had more publicity, I truly doubt anyone would go and watch Avatar if it said Duncan Jones’s Avatar. Even though Duncan Jone’s Moon staring Sam Rockwell was just as; visually amazing, beautiful plot and with astounding cinematography. Of course the son of David Bowie would never get as much publicity then James Cameron he did both Terminator 1 & 2 and Titanic not forgetting True Lies??

I fear for Hollywood’s future very much! With two more Avatar movies on their way and a never ending Pirates of the Caribbean squeals, it’s no surprise that Hollywood now is starting to remake already spectacular movies from other parts of the world; Oldboy, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo squeals  and  Rec squeals. The only thing this shows is that Hollywood has to steal other existing films and stamp a Hollywood film company with a mascot Hollywood director and say its theirs.